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Key statistics underscore Steve Clark's value to Crew SC

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Crew SC locked down the 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year finalist, a quick look at what they are getting.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

I was going to take a deeper dive into the early season stats, but I decided to refocus after Crew SC announced they had reached a new deal with Steve Clark. Clark had an excellent 2014 after coming back to the United States in the offseason. He locked down the starting job, earned 14 wins, and recorded eight shutouts. He had a relatively affordable contract with around $140k guaranteed compensation.

Those numbers are solid, but there are others that better reflect his true value on defense and offense. The first is expected goals (xG). American Soccer Analysis has compiled xG data for teams, players, and goalkeepers. It's here where the value of Steve Clark starts to appear. Here is the goals given up compared to the goals that were expected to be scored.

Name

Goals

xGoals

Difference

Bill Hamid

34

44.62

-10.62

Jon Busch

49

57.24

-8.24

Nick Rimando

25

32.26

-7.26

Steve Clark

40

46.04

-6.04

Sean Johnson

48

52.96

-4.96

Jeff Attinella

14

18.18

-4.18

Bobby Shuttleworth

39

43.17

-4.17

Tyler Deric

14

17.39

-3.39

Jaime Penedo

32

34.15

-2.15

Andy Gruenebaum

10

11.68

-1.68

Bill Hamid appears otherworldly. Jon Busch and Nick Rimando are veterans who have proven their value repeatedly. Steve Clark sits in fourth with over a six goal difference. That's an elite group of players. He marshals a defense well and makes great one on one saves.

The other is how Clark impacts the offense. Gregg Berhalter wants the team to play a certain way. It's building from the back, possession soccer. A goalkeeper that boots it long would hurt the team.

Taking a look back to 2014 with Opta stats from Who Scored at the top 10 keepers in passes per 90 minutes with at least 10 appearances gives us a good cross section of the league and again Clark stands out.

Name

Total

Completion %

% LB

% SP

Tally Hall

32.9

50%

71%

29%

Tyler Deric

32.6

51%

71%

29%

Steve Clark

30.5

76%

47%

53%

Jon Busch

29.2

58%

79%

21%

Evan Bush

29

65%

62%

38%

Bobby Shuttleworth

29

47%

77%

23%

Sean Johnson

28.3

49%

79%

21%

Nick Rimando

27.6

65%

62%

38%

Jeff Attinella

27.4

56%

70%

30%

Bill Hamid

27.3

53%

74%

26%

Clark had the third most passes by a goalkeeper per 90 minutes, but his pass completion rate is where the numbers get interesting. He leads all goalkeeper by completing 76% of his passes. That's outstanding. He's not some savant with a deft touch who completes passes higher than average, it's that he makes the right passes for the system.

No other starting goalkeeper passed short as much as Clark did. He averaged over half his passes under 20 yards. He wholly bought into Berhalter's system. The coach wants to play out of the back, Clark plays out of the back... even under pressure. That's necessary on a team that requires the goalkeeper to start attacking moves and building possession.

Berhalter the coach realizes he has a good piece of the puzzle for what he's building in Columbus. Berhalter the Sporting Director knows that an excellent fit for his system is too valuable so he quickly extends Clark's contract. The numbers back up that Clark is the exact player that Crew SC needs on offense and defense. An early contract renegotiation makes sure a key piece stays in town for the long haul.